"Fruits Basket" Vol. 4: A "Clearing Sky" Reveals Dark Clouds
Tohru Honda has lived with the Sohmas for nearly a year and she keeps meeting new family members, all with the same curse: when hugged by a member of the opposite gender, a Sohma turns into one of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac (plus a cat). Despite having lived co-ed with Yuki and Kyo, one of them holds a major secret that will both test his faith in humanity and her will to live with this foster family. After all is said and done, can Tohru make it through the final volume of Fruits Basket alive?
Episodes included on this disc:
Episodes 20-26 (No Episode Titles)
Well, this is it. The final volume of Fruits Basket, which undoubtedly some of you are checking out in the box set recently released by FUNimation. But for those of you picking up the discs individually, or people just curious about how the final disc shakes up, be prepared—there will be major spoilers a few paragraphs down. I’ll give you further warning, but be prepared.
It’s hard to go over the plot of Fruits Basket episode by episode. For the most part, each episode is a standalone story, likely featuring a character that you’ll only see in that episode. So, as in previous reviews, I feel it best to go character-by-character.
Remember Kisa, the incredibly quiet girl in the Sohma clan? Turns out since her last appearance, she and Tohru have been getting really close. This doesn’t gel with Hiro, a brash kid who nearly drives Tohru to tears on their first meeting. This brat has his own motives for trying to split Tohru and Kisa apart, but after all is said and done, you’ll be very glad that he doesn’t show up much.
If you thought Ayamae was overly dramatic and effeminate, you’ll be blown away by Ritsu. This character (who you’ll have doubts about as soon as you hear the voice) shows up at the Sohma house and takes great pains to avoid offending anybody. A very nervous person, Ritsu is a slightly entertaining character, but didn’t make too much of an impact on the series.
I’ll never get why there is a Prince Yuki Fan Club in the series. Yuki is not a very likable character in my mind, irrationally hating Kyo and acting all regal around Tohru. But there is a funny episode when Motoko, President of the PYFC, realizes that she’s going to graduate soon, and thusly needs to choose a successor for the Presidency. The Fan Club has some of the more eccentric characters (if you’ve seen them spell out “Yuki,” you know how crazed they can be), and it’s good to see them get a “finale,” especially considering how dark the final three episodes are.
How dark? Well, the following paragraph contains major spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The final three present a surprise for Fruits Basket, as they actually connect into one story, unlike the episodic events up to this point. It turns out that Kyo, the lost member of the Chinese Zodiac, has been hiding a secret from Tohru throughout her year living there. Harboring a curse that has turned many against him, his martial arts master turns up to give him a final test. Kyo may be strong, but is he capable of dealing with the potential alienation that’ll result from his true form being shown? And is Tohru strong enough to deal with the monstrous thing that appears when Kyo’s bracelet is removed? For a series whose gimmick was people turning into cute animals when hugged, Kyo’s bestial form is almost ripped from a more sci-fi series. Definitely the darkest the series has ever gotten, I wish these plot points were introduced earlier in the series. But given that Fruits Basket‘s manga was still ongoing at this point, there is more story out there, just not animated.
Fruits Basket will not be one of my favorite animated series. That list is filled with the likes of G-Gundam, Jackie Chan Adventures, Love Hina and the comprehensive DC Animated Universe, all shows that I will watch again and again. Fruits Basket is, however, a fun series sporting realistic characters, if you’ll ignore for a moment their ability to turn into animals. It doesn’t pull punches when it wants to be dramatic and it busts your gut when it wants to be funny. You feel for Tohru. You feel for Kyo. You… well, you might feel for Yuki, but I just hated that character. Maybe that’s just what the series creators wanted me to do. It’s biggest downfall may be its very slow pacing, as the plot doesn’t really go very far in 26 episodes (the manga goes farther). Maybe we’ll get a “Second Basket” sequel series or something.
Extras are, well, I can’t say standard for Fruits Basket, considering it’s only four volumes. You get the expected text-free opening song and FUNimation trailers. The “Fruits Basket Room” Japanese interview special makes an appearance, with Tohru’s Japanese VA interviewing Shigure’s Japanese VA. Slightly funny at times, but you really need to be into the Japanese version to get the full benefit. I watched the whole series via dub, so I can’t really comment. There is also an Illustration Gallery ripped from the Japanese release, collecting 46 various visual bits such as posters, DVD cases and the like.
In a rarity for FUNimation we get to hear interviews with the English cast. I get the feeling that these were all recorded at a different times, as the actors never play off one another, nor is there any video: the audio plays to random images from the series. To round out the disc, we also have a very extensive (at least in terms of sheer length) guide to the entire series’ characters. This was a real help in remembering names, Chinese zodiac animals and other tidbits. There are also images of the American voice actors and mini-bios of each. It’s good to see some love for the American actors.
So, after all is said and done, what do I think of the final volume of Fruits Basket? Though, as I said, it won’t go down as one of my all-time favorites, it was a rather good drama to catch. Maybe the target demographic (read: females) would get more out of it. Still, Volume 4 contains seven good episodes of a good show and good extras. Good, but not great. I guess I’m the rice ball in the fandom of this series.